Tribute to the Saviors of the Holocaust at the Embassy of Austria

On Thursday June 14th, the Embassy of Austria in Buenos Aires and the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation presented the ”The Righteous of Austria” exhibition which pays tribute to those people who practiced values of solidarity and civic courage to assist those people were persecuted by Nazism during the Holocaust.

The exhibition, that will be staying during three months at the lobby of the Austrian consular office, presents cases of sixteen people out of a group of eighty six men, women and teenagers who, living under the Nazi dictatorship, consciously violated one of the main principles of the National-Socialist ideology, by not considering the Jews as sub humans, who belonged to an enemy race.

”These people are only a part of a group of more than 20.000 persons of different nationalities who flagrantly disobeyed aberrant orders. Thanks to their actions, hundreds of thousands human beings could evade the concentration camps”, said Natalio Wengrower, vice-president of the Wallenberg Foundation, an educational NGO created in Argentina by Baruch Tenembaum.

The Ambassador of Austria in Argentina, Gudrun Graf, the historian José Ignacio García Hamilton, vice-president of IRFW, Mrs. Alicia Todesca, in charge of the cultural agenda of the diplomatic delegation and the writer Marcos Aguinis, presented the exhibition. The Ambassadors of Belgium, Portugal and Holland and the survivors of the Holocaust Tomas Kertesz, Laszlo Ladanyi, Zosia Klawir and Miriam Kesler were among those present.

”This exhibition is not only a memory of the history but it represents the heart itself of the Wallenberg Foundation´s mission: to stimulate supportive behaviors and civic courage actions that allow the members of a society to be capable of producing changes and not being just a passive audience of reality”, said Oscar Vicente, the president of the organization.

The translation of the biographical sketches of the Austrian Saviors was in charge of the volunteers of the Wallenberg Foundation, Ileana Cheszes, Maria Belen Closas, Lucia Castro Herrera, Graciela Forman, Maria Pensavalle and Josefina Prytyka de Duschatzky

The story

Immediately after the Annexation (Anschluss) of March 11th, 1938, the German Nazi forces invaded Austria. The streets of Viena and other Austrian cities were full of people who enthusiastically welcomed the invaders. Germany declared that on April 10th a plebiscite would be held to decide the annexation of Austria to the Third Reich. However, neither Austrians nor Germans were ready to wait until that date to start the persecution of Jews. On March 15th, the Jews had already been expelled from the public administration and they could not go to theatres, libraries and cultural institutions. The Jewish organizations were closed and their leaders arrested.

The operations against Jews were not conducted only by the Government Agencies and the Gestapo, but also by local organizations. Austria had a long anti-Semitic tradition in several parts of its population. In the period between the First and the Second World War, many associations adopted the Principle of the Aria Race (Aierprinzip) that ideologically supported the expulsion of the Jews from their memberships. The bands of the SA (Sturmabteilung), wandered around with citizens who actively participated in the destruction of synagogues, stores and houses, they burnt sacred books, forced rabbies to clean the floors with the pages of the Torah, the cut the beards of religious people and they surrender to the out of control pillage terror by stealing money, jewelry, works and pieces of art.

Translation: Graciela Formann